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Tyson v. Illinois Dep't of Corrections

June 26, 2007

LAWRENCE TYSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ROY BRADFORD, ROGER E. WALKER, JR., P. YATES AND LT. SCHULER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, currently an inmate in the Shawnee Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court already granted him leave to proceed in forma pauperis, but he filed a second such motion (Doc. 19); this motion is MOOT.

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:

(a) Screening.-- The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.

(b) Grounds for Dismissal.-- On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint--

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or

(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A. An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Upon careful review of the complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are subject to summary dismissal.

Plaintiff states that in April 2005, while he was in the Big Muddy River Correctional Center, he was severely beaten and sexually assaulted by his cell mate. For several weeks prior to this assault, he had been subjected to verbal and physical harassment by this same cell mate. Plaintiff states that he had made numerous requests, both orally and in writing, to be moved to another cell. These requests were made to Defendants Yates, Bradford and Schuler, but nothing was done in response to his requests.

In Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994), the Supreme Court held that "prison officials have a duty ... to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners." Id. at 833 (internal citations omitted); see also Luttrell v. Nickel, 129 F.3d 933, 935 (7th Cir. 1997). However, not every harm caused by another inmate translates into constitutional liability for the corrections officers responsible for the prisoner's safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. In order for a plaintiff to succeed on a claim for failure to protect, he must show that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm, and that the defendants acted with "deliberate indifference" to that danger. Id.; Reed v. McBride, 178 F.3d 849, 852 (7th Cir. 1999). A plaintiff also must prove that prison officials were aware of a specific, impending, and substantial threat to his safety, often by showing that he complained to prison officials about a specific threat to his safety. Pope v. Shafer, 86 F.3d 90, 92 (7th Cir. 1996). In other words, Defendants had to know that there was a substantial risk that those who attacked Plaintiff would do so, yet failed to take any action. Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 733-34 (7th Cir. 2001).

Applying these standards to the allegations in the complaint, the Court is unable to dismiss this Eighth Amendment claim against Bradford, Schuler or Yates at this point in the litigation.

Plaintiff also names Roger Walker, the director of the I.D.O.C., as a defendant in this action. The basis for his claim against Walker is Walker's alleged failure to properly train and supervise employees in the I.D.O.C., and also for his failure to discipline his employees for their failure to respond to Plaintiff's requests for a cell transfer. This claim is, essentially, a claim of negligence, but a defendant cannot be held liable under § 1983 for negligence. Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 328 (1986); Zarnes v. Rhodes, 64 F.3d 285, 290 (7th Cir. 1995). Therefore, this claim against Walker is dismissed from this action with prejudice.

Plaintiff makes a similar claim against the I.D.O.C. However, the Supreme Court has held that "neither a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are 'persons' under § 1983." Will v. Michigan Department of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). See also Wynn v. Southward, 251 F.3d 588, 592 (7th Cir. 2001) (Eleventh Amendment bars suits against states in federal court for money damages); Billman v. Indiana Department of Corrections, 56 F.3d 785, 788 (7th Cir. 1995) (state Department of Corrections is immune from suit by virtue of Eleventh Amendment); Hughes v. Joliet Correctional Center, 931 F.2d 425, 427 (7th Cir. 1991) ...


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